I know cat cafes. I’ve visited a lot. Some have been grand, such as Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium in London. Others, such as Neko Cafe Leon in Yokohama, have been like visiting your kooky uncle’s cat-filled rec room. I recently visited Cat Store cat cafe in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. The trip had a dubious start but I discovered yet another kind of weird cat cafe. Here’s how it happened.
I began by searching for the hidden kitty kingdom among bustling Hong Kong side streets and dark hallways such as this one.
Where was I? What had I gotten myself into? But I found the front door to Cat Store, and I perked up a bit.
Despite being in a nondescript hallway in a nondescript building, the entrance offered some promise. What would I find behind this door? Leaving the dim hallway behind, I found myself in a quiet kitty oasis high above the noise of the city. I was greeted by this “wall of cute.”
Then I almost tripped over this fellow named Hei Hei. Oops. I had interrupted his afternoon nap. I apologized profusely, and while Hei Hei seemed unfazed (and accepted my conciliatory scratches graciously), he wished me a “Good day, Miss!” and sent me on my way.
My trip to to Cat Store was off to a delightful, if bumbling, start.
I next encountered cat paintings and signs in English and Chinese asking customers to respect the cats. The main part of the cafe contains several tidy tables, cat cubbies, cat beds, and a bakery display case. This place has the most “cafe” vibe of all the Asian cat cafes I’ve visited. I could easily see myself settling in a cushy window seat with a coffee, a book, and a feline companion.
The cafe has what I’d call a very “Hong Kong” feel to it. While I found it clean and lacking any of the unpleasant “lots of cats live here” odors I’ve encountered in less favorable cat cafes, it also had the aesthetic of “your eccentric auntie’s living room.” I’m fully aware my comparisons reveal insight into the weird world in which I grew up (uncle’s rec room, auntie’s living room, Louise’s neuroses).
The place feels cozy, as if your cat-loving Chinese auntie might make an appearance at any moment. (You each have one of those right? No? Just me?) Photos of happy memories with cats line the walls, as well as all manner of adorable, “artsy,” and silly cat decor. In a “we’re not fancy but we love cats” kind of way, the place feels unpretentious and inviting.
My husband and I sat down and perused Cat Store’s menu — or I should say menus. One is devoted to food and drink, the other is a sort of “menu of cats.” More than just giving information on the 10 cats who call the cafe home, it describes how to interact with the cats. There is the standard “don’t pick up the cats,” “don’t harass the cats,” and “no flash photography,” but also a diagram on how to pet the cats.
No sooner had I refreshed my cat-petting knowledge, than this guy came over to check us out.
He was interested in us but a bit camera shy. It seems that we had chosen to sit at HIS scratching spot. Throughout our visit, this cat, who I believe was named Kwai Chai, came back to scratch his chair. “Just making sure you know whose house you’re in,” he seemed to say.
A cafe worker gave me a plastic membership card and a stamp card. Cat Store is a “members only” cafe, but becoming a member is free. From what I gathered, becoming a member is as easy as completing a short form. From there, “members” get an increasing amount of money off their total bill, depending on how often they visit.
Yes, I am now a card-carrying member of a cat cafe. Jealous?
The menu (in English and Chinese) is significant, containing cat-themed coffee and “dessert drinks” as well as cat-themed food including pizza, pasta, and sweets.
Unfortunately, gluten intolerance prohibited me from getting a cat-themed dessert, so instead I got a specialty coffee drink. I present to you, the 3D Latte. I won’t lie, I felt a little guilty sipping down those tasty little smiling kitties.
Next I walked around the cafe to visit the lounging cats.
I should mention that, contrary to what the name might suggest, all of Cat Store’s felines are rescue cats, and nearly all of them are senior cats. In fact, Cat Store specializes in the care of senior cats. Customers are told to never share their food with the kitties (who don’t beg anyway) because they are all on specific diets.
This “Royal Cats’ Fortress,” as they call it, is a home for aging cats who needed a second chance. In fact, Cat Store is committed to “adopting not shopping.” In the cafe’s 15 years, it has helped nearly 5,000 cats find homes. While the cafe might not be “fancy,” the cats are treated as royalty.
Speaking of “fancy,” this bow-tied cat named LL gave me a mini tour.
I followed LL over shelves and kitty cubbies.
Then he led me to the bakery display. And oh what (human) treats awaited!
It was as if the cafe owners had sat LL down and told him, “All right, you’re the ‘personality cat’ around here, with your bow tie and everything. Get people to the baked goods. Humans are weak, they can’t resist when a cat tells them to spend money.”
And spend I did. Upon LL’s recommendation, I bought some cat paw cookies for a few deserving friends. I left LL demanding more bakery purchases from other customers, and I headed to a cat bed where two cats had been snuggling from the moment I entered.
Oblivious to the adoring humans, these two were totally in love. When they started cleaning each other’s ears, I died from sweetness overload.
Not to be outdone, this regal, long-haired kitty hopped up on the table where the two lovebirds, er, love-cats, canoodled and demanded to be admired. And admire I did.
I learned that this kitty fancies himself the “boss” of the place. So of course I had to get a selfie with him.
He wasn’t that into it.
When it was time to go, we paid our bill, got my card stamped, and bid adieu or joi gin (“see you next time”) to the cats. You can see some of them on the cafe’s Instagram feed.
I left Cat Store feeling relaxed, charmed, and ready to face the chaos of Hong Kong again. Cat Store, with its peaceful, happy cats, is definitely a gem in the urban jungle. If you’re ever in Hong Kong and need a respite from all the people, find your way to Cat Store in Causeway Bay. Don’t be deterred by the dark hallway. I’m sure LL & Co. will happily help you satisfy your craving for sweets and kitties.
About the author: Louise Hung is a morbidly inclined cat lady living in Hong Kong, with her cat, her man, and probably a couple ghost cats. She also writes for xoJane. You can follow her on Twitter or drop her a line at IamLouiseMicaela@gmail.com.